Using hardwood that isn't quarter sawn

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Forum topic by gbinco posted 09-30-2014 04:02 PM 947 views 0 times favorited 9 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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12 posts in 756 days

09-30-2014 04:02 PM

Hi all,

I did some woodworking more than a decade ago and am just getting back into it. My experience with hardwood is limited.

My next project is going to be a little walnut side table. I was going to use dowel joinery and the top will be lots of little strips glued up.

I got excited by the price and pattern of the walnut I bought out of a guy’s garage. A day later I realized that I had purchased plain sawed wood. It is kiln dried to about 6-7%. I live near Denver, low humidity. I will be spraying it with a few coats of poly.

I really don’t want movement to bust the table apart. I think I could fairly easily fix the top by turning all of the segments 90 degrees before gluing, but is it necessary? I’m also afraid that the apron could expand and push up the top. If the shelf would expand, it would push the legs outward but I’m hoping that wouldn’t be enough pressure to separate the joints at the top.

I was also hoping to use some of the wood for a pizza paddle or cutting board. I thought I had a source that said which woods were good for food items but can’t find it. I know some woods can impart flavor on the food that it contacts and some woods have open grain which can cause sanitation problems. Is walnut safe for food? I know it has open grain but is that a problem for dry foods or is there a food safe sealant that would work here?


9 replies so far

View Grandpa's profile


3256 posts in 2097 days

#1 posted 09-30-2014 04:08 PM

I use mineral oil for a food safe sealant on products like your pizza paddle. I think Walnut would be a little soft for a cutting board. You could mix it with some harder woods. On the table I wouldn’t attach the top in a tight secure manner. There are several methods of allowing it to slightly float. Look them over and pick one of those. I don’t think dowels will be necessary either. They are almost a thing of the past for projects like a table top. They would be okay but not necessary.

View CharlesA's profile (online now)


2976 posts in 1220 days

#2 posted 09-30-2014 04:12 PM

The real experts will reply eventually. In the meantime, a few notes:
1) most hardwood used for furniture is not quartersawn. And while I can get QS cherry or walnut locally, I’d say that 80% of QS wood used for furniture is oak, and that is chosen at least as much for its look as its stability.
2) Using it as facegrain is just fine.
3) Is there a reason to use “lots of little strips”? You can glue up wider pieces as well.
4) if you attach an apron, be sure to allow for wood movement.
5) since you bought if from a guy’s garage, worth having it acclimate at your place. You may want to pick up a cheap moisture meter (HF?) and check to see what the % is.

-- "Man is the only animal which devours his own, for I can apply no milder term to the general prey of the rich on the poor." ~Thomas Jefferson

View Fred Hargis's profile

Fred Hargis

3847 posts in 1915 days

#3 posted 09-30-2014 04:49 PM

What CharlesA said: most wood isn’t quartersawn, the only time I buy it is for appearance….and that’s usually white oak (though sycamore is stunning). Move on and be happy….no input on the pizza peel and walnut, tho’.

-- Our village hasn't lost it's idiot, he was elected to congress.

View bondogaposis's profile


3970 posts in 1773 days

#4 posted 09-30-2014 04:53 PM

There no reason not to use plain sawed wood for a table top unless you want the quarter sawn look. There numerous ways to allow for wood movement when attaching a table top to it’s apron. You can use buttons, table top fasteners, or figure eight fasteners all of which work well. The top will not move in length, it is the width that have to be concerned about. The key is to allow for it and not ignore it or try to confine it.

-- Bondo Gaposis

View richardwootton's profile


1698 posts in 1377 days

#5 posted 09-30-2014 04:56 PM

The flat sawn wood will be just fine, and walnut is pretty darn stable as it is.

-- Richard, Hot Springs, Ar -- Galoot In Training

View ChefHDAN's profile


798 posts in 2271 days

#6 posted 09-30-2014 05:07 PM

Welcom to LJ, you’ll find that many questions can be answered with a seach of the site, Heres a good thread about food contact and sealing choices

-- I've decided 1 mistake is really 2 opportunities to learn.. learn how to fix it... and learn how to not repeat it

View Nomad62's profile


726 posts in 2380 days

#7 posted 10-02-2014 05:45 PM

The only reason the wood will move is moisture content change. Allowing it to set in your home and acclimate for 2-3 weeks before use should be just fine, provided the kiln work was done properly. Watch it as it sets, if it moves then give it more time until it sets in place.

-- Power tools put us ahead of the monkeys

View gbinco's profile


12 posts in 756 days

#8 posted 10-02-2014 06:01 PM

Thanks everyone!

View BigMig's profile


380 posts in 2035 days

#9 posted 10-02-2014 06:41 PM

My only advice is to join a couple strips at a time, and then join the multi-stip pieces to one another. This keeps the work manageable – nobody said you have to join the whole top in one session, right? Keep it simpler and you’ll experience a lot less stress.

I also agree that flat sawn should be great for a table top.

-- Mike from Lansdowne, PA

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